What were you doing at six years old? Odds are pretty good that you were in Kindergarten or first grade, having just learned to read, preoccupied with basic math exercises and worried about whether you were going to obtain cooties from your classmates. Such is not the case for Riverdale, Georgia native Lil TerRio, who happened to be six years old in the year 2013. What’s the significance of 2013, you might ask? The answer is simple yet complex at the same time, consisting of four letters in the English alphabet yet upwards of 40 million users across the globe: the mammoth iPhone application that is Vine, a six-second video recording platform. His “Ooh Kill Em” dance has become a worldwide phenomenon. I have personally seen it done in various locations; apartment parties at the University of Illinois are no exception. The dance is the sole reason that TerRio, now seven years old, is flying around the country, laid up in swanky hotels, befriending LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and essentially living the Vincent Chase lifestyle.
It’s no secret that child stars don’t exactly turn out to be the most upstanding human beings. Macauley Culkin and Lindsay Lohan are just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, like with anything, there are exceptions to the rule. But what’s terrifying about TerRio’s predicament is that he might be the first true, internet child star.
But let’s backtrack a second. Countless people have become “superstars” thanks to the handy dandy world wide web, and, more specifically, YouTube. Early on, we had Chris Crocker‘s “Leave Britney Alone,” Judson Laipply‘s “Evolution of Dance,” and Tay Zonday‘s “Chocolate Rain.” Many of today’s up-and-coming musical acts are discovered via YouTube, as it’s the most accessible platform to showcase talent and help launch a career. The first name that comes to mind is Justin Bieber, whose videos caught the attention of now-manager Scooter Braun. From Tyler The Creator‘s “Yonkers” to Kreayshawn‘s “Gucci Gucci” to A$AP Rocky‘s “Purple Swag,” it’s no secret that a stirring visual can help propel a previously underground or lesser known artist into superstardom.
TerRio’s rise to fame was a completely different animal. The kid did a funny dance, like all kids do. The only difference is that his dance landed him a major reference in a Meek Mill song, an interview on The Arsenio Hall Show, and appearances at various events across the country. Think about this: when The Arsenio Hall Show was in its prime back in the early 1990s, Bill Clinton was a guest interviewee. In 2014, Arsenio gets Lil TerRio. On the show, the young’n makes a promise to his fans that he’s “losing weight but gaining money.” Well, one of those statements is definitely true; the kid is making stacks. His booking rates were recently revealed, and they’re nothing short of astounding. As for the weight aspect, it’s clear that all that extra money has my dude eating real, real good. Peep the picture above one more time and tell me TerRio hasn’t put on at least 100 pounds since his original Vine video. And that’s what’s scary about all of this.
Spending so much time dissecting the life of one seven-year-old when there are bigger fish to fry might seem tedious, but it’s necessary because he’s captured the attention of so many. At what point do we turn our attention to the people around him? Where are his parents? How much of that money he’s making is going toward his cousins, his cousins’ friends, his semi-acquaintances just in search of a quick buck? It’s well-documented that he’s being home-schooled; once his time in the limelight is up, whenever that might be, will he have missed out on valuable grade school experiences? That’s what sucks about it all: TerRio is so god damn entertaining. You want to see him win, which, by all accounts, he is currently doing. You want to root for him because he’s funny; he’s a good kid. One day he might be hanging out with Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson, the next day he might post a hilarious picture at the park, and the day after that he might go off on an Uber driver. He’s just living his life.
But wait. A challenger looms. Lil Meatball has bust onto the scene with his “YEET” video. And it shits on TerRio’s dance for more than a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Lil Meatball’s dance is just better. More skill, more technique, more ability. At this point, Lil Meatball could do the “Ooh Kill Em” dance better than TerRio himself due to the latter looking like the Michelin Man. TerRio opened the doors for viral video stars such as Meatball to take it to the next level, and so far, he has. “YEET” hit the ‘net at the beginning of April, yet Lil Meatball already has more than double the number of TerRio’s twitter followers. If the initial impact of the “Ooh Kill Em” dance was a 6.0 earthquake on the richter scale, then “YEET” was a 9.0 plus a tsunami. The meme world ran wild, t-shirts were marketed and sold instantly, and Meatball himself had some choice words for his newest nemesis.
So, the question begs: how long will TerRio’s run last, especially with other viral stars taking shots at him these days? Hopefully, he’ll be around for a while, with the proper people around him to make sure he gets his weight in check and the fair amount of dough in his own name. But what happens if he blows all his cash and he loses his title as most sought-after grade school entertainer in America? If nothing changes, he’ll be an overweight, education lacking (yeah, I’m calling BS on the whole “home-schooled” thing) kid who once attended cool events like the Super Bowl Media Day, at which he had no idea who Randy Moss was.
This all might be part of a larger discussion: what are entertainers in this day and age? Because really, it can be anybody. I’m willing to bet that more 12-year-olds would recognize TerRio if they saw him in the street than, say, Snoop Dogg. And that’s just where we’re at. There are pros and cons to that fact; the average person who does a funny dance is now on par with the “superstars” of the past. But there’s also a notion that it really doesn’t take any talent anymore to become an icon. Regardless, I’ll be rooting for the young guy. Where do you stand? If you have an opinion, feel free to leave a comment and let us know.